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Hit Hard by COVID-19, 5 Manufacturing Executives Share What’s Helping Their Businesses Recover

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Thomas Insights: How has COVID-19 impacted your business? 

Karen Norheim: We have seen changes in demand; Definitely a slowdown and a pause compared to last year.

Brad Ingalls: From this time last year, orders and inquiries are down about 50%. We are fortunate that we have not had to alter any employees’ hours or shifts. All of the plants I utilize are open and ready for business.

Mike Wetzel: This is an unusual thing. We've never dealt with this. No one's ever dealt with this, so you're not going to make all perfect decisions. Okay, that's fine. Right? But you make a decision, and then you live with it; You adapt, and [then] you move [on] from there.

TI: Have you seen any "silver linings" happening in the industry or specifically at your business as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? 

Roy Paulson: On a positive note, I have seen a tremendous resurgence of interest in people manufacturing products here in the United States.

Neil Doniger: I have found it to be very refreshing how both my competitors and my allies in this industry have collaborated to help each other out with supplies that are needed to make a lot of PPE. We have supplied foam. We have supplied antimicrobial coatings. We have bought from our competitors and our allies, and we're all working together. It's been very refreshing.

Mike Wetzel: Probably the best thing that has come out of it is a recognition of the supply chain and where your products are coming from. We had some solo channels for certain products coming from certain countries or certain vendors and have had a disruption in those supply chains. I see it across the whole country. People were, in general, getting too comfortable with always having access to global products. A good thing that's come out of this, is people will have a little different viewpoint on American-made goods now. But I think a respect for having a domestic supply chain is very important as well as to balance your international supply chain.

TI: What do you expect to happen across industry once COVID-19 subsides and businesses begin to reopen nationwide?

Brad Ingalls: I firmly believe once the viruses subside, companies will consider moving into smaller facilities and keep some employees working from home. Those currently working from home are finding they're a lot more productive, happy, with fewer distractions. Eliminating commute time, particularly in L.A., is a substantial savings in time and money.

Neil Doniger: I think it's key that anybody who has the capacity to manufacture be very versatile [and] flexible. You [should aim to] think outside the box. [Be] aware that you need to not do the same ol' same ol' but [instead] figure out a way to adapt and work together.

Karen Norheim: Never has it been more important to communicate with your people. You need to adjust your sales and keep your team engaged and productive. This storm is not over, and you will need to be agile and responsive to manage the coming crests and troughs. It has been made apparent how important a technology roadmap is for businesses in industry. And we can learn from this crisis and build on it to catapult ourselves forward into the future.

Brad Ingalls: Please stay safe, and thank you.